More than Pretty Flowers

Saturday, 29 February 2020 00:00

Unless you are a native Dutch you probably haven't heard of Lisse, although you might have heard of or at least seen pictures of Keukenhof – even though you can't pronounce it right – where the beauty of the tulips is celebrated in all its glory every year. However, Lisse doesn't rest on the fame of Keukenhof and the thousands of tourists surging to admire its flowers, but is actively promoting art and culture for its citizens to enjoy. In this context, every few years the town council appoints a "dorpsdichter", translated literally as "village poet". From 2016 to 2019, Alida van Leeuwen, a very active member of the Lisse community, a laugh psychologist and one of the most positive people I've ever met, was the dorpsdichter of Lisse. During this time she created a poetic collection, Dichter bij Kunst, that has just been published.

Usually I treat each poem as a unique entity but in this case I have to consider the book as a whole to give its contents justice. There are a number of things Alida manages to do in this collection and that need to be mentioned: First of all, she combines her work with the visual work of a number of artists, and the result is beautiful. Thus, we have a full-colored book full of images depicting mostly the natural scenery of the Netherlands but also the human being as part of and in connection to it. Secondly, Alida has collaborated with other poets to create some very unique pieces that stand out for their difference in tone, giving voice to others and letting show the power of co-creation. One of these poems is the result of our collaboration, a work combining two languages, namely Dutch and English.

When reading the poems one has to keep in mind the target group of this book, where it sprang from and what it's trying to honor. The work doesn't claim a position among the poetic masterpieces but its intention is to bring joy and reinforce the pride of the Lisse citizenry, and to be accessible to all. The book is brimming with local imagery, the beauty of the turning seasons and elements specific to the calm, rural life of Lisse. Nevertheless, Alida goes beyond this noble cause and encompasses social inquiry in her work, openly promoting the notions of tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness – important ideas to propagate, especially when the grip of conservatism is tightening. To illustrate this major point, I will stand on the finishing lines of one admirable piece, celebrating the Polish flower workers in the fields of Lisse: "Houd onze dankbaarheid hen op de been? / Ik betwijfel het. Zij verdienen hun eigen vreugd". ("Does our gratitude keep them going? / I doubt it. They earn their joy themselves"). 



If you can read Dutch and would like to order the book, contact Alida at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Published in books

poetry issues #22

Friday, 14 February 2020 00:00

Poetry Issues #22 was published and distributed in January and February 2020 in five volumes, online and in postcard format. Below you can read the pieces, view the accompanying visual artwork and get a glimpse at the postcards. The next issue will follow in spring.


poem and artwork


poem and artwork


poem and artwork


poem and artwork




 You can read more about the poetry issues project here.







Published in verse

The Cat – Journey

Friday, 07 February 2020 00:00

Poetry issues #22, 5/5: The Cat – Journey

This week poetry issues #22 is completed with Part 5, containing the poem "The Cat" and the visual piece "Journey". Together with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 they comprise the winter issue. Poetry issues #23 will follow in spring.


poem and artwork


You can find out more about the poetry issues project here.

Published in poetry

The Ship – Affair

Friday, 31 January 2020 00:00

Poetry issues #22, 4/5: The Ship – Affair


The past three weeks, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of poetry issues #22 were published. This week, Part 4, containing the poem "The Ship" and the visual piece "Affair," appears here. The following Friday the last part of the issue will be published.


poem and artwork


You can find out more about the poetry issues project here.

Published in poetry

Erupting – Home

Friday, 24 January 2020 00:00

Poetry issues #22, 3/5: Erupting – Home

The past two weeks, Part 1 and Part 2 of poetry issues #22 were published. This week, Part 3, containing the poem "Erupting" and the visual piece "Family," appears here. The following two Fridays the last two parts of the issue will be published.


poem and artwork


You can find out more about the poetry issues project here.



Published in poetry

Hibernation Advice – Family

Friday, 17 January 2020 00:00

Poetry issues #22, 2/5: Hibernation Advice – Family

Last week Part 1 of poetry issues #22, containing "A Balcony" and "The View" was published. This week's poem is "Hibernation Advice," and "Family" is its accompanying visual piece. Every Friday for the next three weeks, a new poem will be published along with its unique artwork. Together, they will comprise poetry issues #22.


poem and artwork


 You can find out more about the poetry issues project here.




Published in poetry

A Balcony – The View

Friday, 10 January 2020 00:00

Poetry issues #22, 1/5: A Balcony – The View

Every Friday for the next four weeks, a new poem will be published, along with its unique artwork. Together, they will comprise poetry issues #22.




You can find out more about the poetry issues project here.




Published in poetry

Seasons (het jaar rond)

Thursday, 03 October 2019 00:00

I am happy to announce that the poem "Seasons (het jaar rond)" that Alida van Leeuwen and I wrote in collaboration has been published in the newspaper LisserNieuws on October 1st. "Seasons (het jaar rond)" is a two languages experiment, and the result is quite interesting. Here is the poem (without the spelling mistake that appears in the paper):


Seasons (het jaar rond) - Duo dicht Maria Exarchou/Alida van Leeuwen

It starts in winter as a distracting recollection
of poppy red dispersing in the late afternoon sun.

Ik voel de eerste zonnestralen
zie zonnig geel en vurend rood
en spring vol vreugde de lente in

Riding the tip of the rainbow I shed my old skin
freed by the explosion of purple in the meadows.

De warme kleuren van de zomerse zon
geven alles een nieuwe tint
Mijn zonnebril beschaduwt de wereld

I don't want this life to end. I find closure in
silver autumn clouds: Like seasons, we'll return.

Een zucht vol winterse geuren
vullen mijn daagse dromen
De temperatuur daalt



Published in news

(One more) Exhibition! [updated]

Thursday, 31 January 2019 00:00


The show mentioned below was followed by another one with the same theme, on another location of BplusC, at Stevenshof Library, Trix Terwindtstraat 6 in Leiden. The show began early May (2019) and is on until the 15th of June. Here's an impression:

Leiden 2019




Just like last year, the library of BplusC (Nieuwstraat 4, Leiden) is celebrating poetry with a unique group exhibition. And since it is 350 years from the death of Rembrandt, this is an exhibition in his memory. The show has already started (on the 29th of January) and will be on until the 25th of February.

For now, if you can't visit the library in person to enjoy the works of almost thirty artists, you can read my contribution here:


The Night Watch


A darkness as thick as molasses —

a spoonful of struggles yet to come.


There is humanity in simple gestures,

frailty in men carrying useless guns.


Depth is carved on dancing shadows

a soft light enters within from above.


A kind hand smoothens the contrasts

until a night is not a night after all.


Update: Visiting the show, I was happy to find out that another one of my poems, "Psychographics" from the Poetry Issues project, is also included. Enjoy below a small sample of a beautiful exhibition curated by Alida van Leeuwen:




[At the same time, another exhibition is taking place in The Hague.]


Published in news

poetry issues #21

Friday, 25 January 2019 00:00

A very special labor, the January-February issue. I hope you enjoy stories of identity and struggle:




Better watch people

from afar, like big cities.

Admire their beauty

from a distance and avoid

touching their fences.


On Saturn I'd be

five kilos less and that's what

matters more in this

floating universe where not

a thing weighs more than I.



Family Gatherings


All children wanted to be men

and no one cared to pick

homegrown rosemary and dill

for the women in the kitchen.


The boys came in pairs to steal

little cheese pies, then went on

with their precious outdoor life

of playing football and riding bikes.


The girls feared nothing more

than becoming their mothers

with lives spent over lemons

and eggs in hot fish soups.


We didn’t know then that kitchens

held so many secrets, far more

steaming than backyard politics.

Women have been always winning.





The crashing density  the stuffy thoughts

Of asthmatic lungs      gulping

The fake air               with greed

Everyone is trying

To grasp                   what they can

An old woman's         out of luck

Girlish games

Tired pigtails             unwashed

Nicotine and coffee    but

Without infatuation

The earth is flat         just

Give me oxygen



I'll Play it Cool


Every time

you want to hurt me

you twist your tongue

to warm it up

before it hits me

with whip-like speed.


I was never fast

with words and now

your gun of a finger

is pointing at me.

I will remain silent.

You cannot win.


The Duck Painting


It’s hard to tell if it is monochrome

or just faded into a pale delft blue

and why it's hanging in the living room

in this furnished simulation of some

home. I’ll change it – a lasting addition

in the long list of intentions. I start

counting the ducks but get distracted

by the frame. Gold and metallic and

more eighties than my mother. She

had one that looked the same. So,

there’s a faint reminder of who I am.

You find strange ways to connect

when life is condensed to a trolley bag.


 [You will learn more about the Poetry Issues project here.]


Published in news
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